As public money grows tighter and education reform efforts intensify, the intricate web linking local, state and federal legislators to the fate of school districts grows ever more complex. In this environment, strengthening partnerships with local representatives and ensuring familiarity with both the long-term challenges and day-to-day problems facing school districts is critical.

As part of its effort to help representatives advocate for public schools in City Hall, Sacramento and Washington, OUSD periodically hosts legislative tours to give Oakland politicians firsthand experience in the schools they represent and greater exposure to the issues confronting them.

The most recent tour, held in March, was organized by OUSD Legislative Liaison Shonda Scott who shares her recollection of the day’s events:

Braving the rain, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, Councilmember Pat Kernighan, School Board Directors Jody London and David Kakishiba and representatives from various State and Local elective offices, climbed aboard the “Zero Emission” bus to visit OUSD school sites. The special bus, provided especially for the tour by AC Transit Interim General Manager Mary King, showcased some of public transit’s latest advances in eco-sensitive technology. Environmental responsibility was a theme that recurred throughout the trip as the guests toured several LEED Certified construction projects within OUSD.

The tour, hosted by Director London and the Board of Education, provided an opportunity for State and Local officials to see how voter-approved bond money is spent in the District. At the first stop, Chabot Elementary Principal Mayer and the kindergarten class greeted officials in the school’s newly remodeled, start-of-the-art library and computer lab. Director London and Assistant Superintendent for Facilities Tim White guided the officials on the hard-hat portion of the tour to view progress on the site’s re-modernized classroom building.

After Chabot the tour continued to Oakland International High School, allowing legislators to sit in on computer and English classes and hear how school Principal Carmelita Reyes is using the school’s acclaimed program to support the District’s recent immigrant students. Next, Superintendent Tony Smith and Principal Alicia Romero addressed the tour officials at Oakland High, with both urging more collaborative efforts to help schools fill the programmatic gaps created by state budget cuts.

The tour ended with Director Kakishiba’s presentation on the $75 million Downtown Educational Complex project and a surprise visit to MetWest High School where tour officials spoke to students, and shared in the excitement as students presented their senior video projects.

Due to the success of the tour and the enthusiasm of the participants, The Board of Education’s Governmental Affairs Committee has committed to hosting at least two legislative tours a year where different school sites are visited throughout the District.